Gamecocks, Vols Win SEC Sportsmanship Award for Lattimore Injury Reaction

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2013

According to College Football Talk, the Tennessee Volunteers and South Carolina Gamecocks have both been awarded the SEC's Sportsmanship Award for their response to Marcus Lattimore's gruesome knee injury.

Lattimore, who had already once recovered from a torn ACL, endured an even more devastating hit against Tennessee last October. The severity of the wound was clear almost immediately, so Lattimore's Gamecock teammates huddled around him to check on his status.

What made the moment special, though, and brought at least some light to a dark situation, was the reaction of Tennessee's players. Also recognizing the nature of the injury, a group of Volunteers came over to pay their respects as Lattimore congealed on the ground.

Slowly but surely, that small group of players engorged into a massive one, both teams emptying their sideline and huddling together in the middle of the field. It was, without trying to sound melodramatic, the ultimate display of sportsmanship:

Of the award, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said (h/t College Football Talk):

Sportsmanship, civility and societal responsibility are things that will lead to victories throughout the course of life.

[D]espite being engaged in a heated conference game, both teams set aside their battle to show support for a football player, regardless of which uniform he wore. The act displayed both great sportsmanship by the teams gathered as one support unit as well as the impact that Lattimore had on his sport.

In his healthiest season, 2010, Lattimore ran for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. In the SEC. As a freshman. After the Tennessee injury, he needed to have his ACL, LCL and PCL repaired by Dr. James Andrews, and has not appeared in a live football game since.

Once considered a sure-fire first-round pick, the red flags set off by this injury dropped Lattimore to the fourth, where he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers. 

Still, between the on-field reaction to his injury and the resolve Lattimore has shown to play another down, this story has gone from tragic to, potentially, inspiring.